ARLINGTON, VA–- Rasmus Sandin will make his preseason debut with the Washington Capitals Thursday night ahead of his first full campaign in Washington. After the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt him at the trade deadline, Sandin immediately jumped into a role with the Caps’ top four and put up 15 points (3g, 12a) in 19 games.
Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery, who worked Sandin for two years as an assistant coach in Toronto, has paired the 23-year-old blueliner with John Carlson for Thursday’s matchup against the Detroit Red Wings. According to Sandin, Carlson’s had plenty of feedback for his new defense partner.
“He’s been on me a lot,” Sandin said with a grin. “Stuff I’m doing wrong and stuff I’m doing right. No, but he’s huge to be around, not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. He’s an unbelievable guy and obviously an unbelievable player as well. So for a young guy like me, it’s awesome to have him beside me.”
The paring is particularly special for Sandin, who kept a close eye on Carlson’s career as a teenager. After already establishing a bond with center Nicklas Backstrom during his time in DC, Sandin has yet another opportunity to play alongside a childhood hero.
“I feel like [Carlson is] a guy that I’ve been looking at since I was little,” Sandin told the media Thursday. “So he’s a guy that, as I said, looking at and trying a little bit to modify my game after. I feel like we kind of play similar. It makes it easier on the ice as well. I think we think in kind of the same way too. We’re just having a lot of fun and it’s obviously huge to have him beside me.”
Sandin, primarily known for his offensive play, was paired last season with the more defensively-minded Trevor van Riemsdyk and Nick Jensen. A pairing with Carlson could be high-risk, high-reward: both are capable of racking up points but can struggle in their own end. Depending on their play in the preseason, Carbery believes the pairing could pay off.
“Just from a deployment standpoint, we’re going to get a really good look at that in Training Camp” he said Tuesday. “I’ve talked to them about that, of having more of an offensive flair to a pair. A lot of people think about — and rightly so, not saying that we wouldn’t go back to this — but put someone like a Sandin with [van Riemsdyk], or Nick Jensen, right? Which is fair, really good defenders, really smart defenders, err on the side of caution.
“But I think there’s something to be said too, for trying or giving a look to two guys that see the game at a real high level offensively and playing them together. As long as they’re responsible, back each other up, read when one guy’s activated, read when one guy’s down in the offensive zone, and they can do that at a high level, I think there’s an added bonus there of being able to start them in the offensive zone.”
Without a stay-at-home defenseman on the other side of the ice, Sandin and Carlson will both have to take on more defensive responsibility. Sandin emphasized the importance of communication in making the pairing work.
“I think it could definitely turn out good,” he said. “For us, I think it’s more about reading what the other guy is doing. So, you know, both of us doesn’t jump up in the offensive zone too much and no one is staying behind playing defense. And so I think that’s the main key for us just reading up one another. I think if we do that, I think we’ll play pretty good together.”
Capitals management will likely have an even closer eye on Sandin’s production as he enters into a contract year. Currently making $1.4 million per season, Sandin will be an arbitration-eligible RFA this summer and has already stated his desire to remain in DC long-term. Still, he says his main focus remains on getting the team into the postseason.
“I don’t really have any personal goals right now, he said. “It’s more that we’re going to play playoff games this year and try to be better every single day at the rink.”
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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